Does Transdermal Testosterone Therapy Really Work?

Testosterone is an anabolic steroidal hormone which belongs to the androgen group. This hormone is the major male reproductive hormone and is secreted by the testicles in males. Testosterone insufficiency i.e. hypotestosteronism, occurs either due to testicular dysfunction i.e. primary hypogonadism or pituitary-hypothalamic dysfunction i.e. secondary hypogonadism. This condition leads to decreased sexual desire in males and can also lead to erectile dysfunction that can potentially cause impotence in males.

In order to fulfill the deficiency of this hormone, doctors prescribe testosterone therapy (hormone replacement therapy). In recent times, testosterone therapy is available via different routes of administration. These include the oral route which includes tablets and capsules, parenteral route which includes IV and subcutaneous injections, and the latest transdermal route which includes testosterone patches and gels.

We’ve formulated a detailed guide regarding the efficacy, uses, and side effects of transdermal testosterone which happens to be the latest route of administration for androgen therapy.

What Is Transdermal Testosterone And What Are Its Uses In Hypogonadal Men?

Transdermal testosterone is a topical preparation which is applied on the patient’s skin from where it gets absorbed into the body and enters the bloodstream, completely bypassing the gastrointestinal tract. It helps the body in reaching normal levels of testosterone.

According to a scientific study published in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism which has an impact factor of 6.21, transdermal testosterone improves sexual function, muscle strength, mood, and body composition in hypogonadal men [1].

It was a double-blind, comparative study in which the study subjects were divided into two groups. One group received transdermal testosterone therapy and the other group was treated with placebo. The mood changes and sexual function of the candidates was determined by a questionnaire, the body composition was evaluated via dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, and the changes in muscular strength were determined by a maximum repetitive technique on bench and limb press exercise. It was observed that the mood and sexual function of the selected hypogonadal candidates improved significantly till the 30th day of the transdermal testosterone therapy, whereas, the group which was administered placebo showed no improvement in their mood, sexual function, or body composition.

Hence, it was concluded that transdermal testosterone effectively works in improving the sexual function, mood, and total body composition in hypogonadal men with minimal skin irritation [2].

How to Use Transdermal Testosterone?

The transdermal patches of testosterone should be applied to dry, clean skin of the upper arms or shoulders once daily or as directed by the medical practitioner. In case you wear short sleeve shirts, apply this patch only to those areas which will be covered.

Some brands of transdermal patches are also applied to the abdominal area. Hence, ask your pharmacist where your brand of patch should be applied. Also, don’t apply this patch on broken or irritated skin. If you’re using the transdermal gel pump, learn the complete preparation and directions for use of the pump from your pharmacist.

For achieving maximum results, don’t take a shower or go for swimming for at least 3 to 5 hours after the application of the transdermal patch, so that there’s sufficient time for the medication to get absorbed through your skin into the bloodstream.

For ensuring maximum efficacy, use the patch at the same time each day.

What Are The Potential Side Effects Of This Therapy?

The potential adverse effects of testosterone patches are the same as that of oral or parenteral testosterone therapy. A person may suffer from mild headache, nausea, vomiting, troubled sleep or insomnia, hair loss, and changes in sexual desire. If any of these side effects worsen or persist for a long time period, stop your testosterone therapy and immediately contact your doctor or pharmacist.

One added side effect of transdermal testosterone is occasional swelling or redness of the skin. If the swelling or redness persists, change the area of application or contact your doctor.

The serious side effects of testosterone therapy include; gynecomastia i.e. breast enlargement in males, edema i.e. extreme swelling of the feet or ankles, massive weight gain, shallow or difficult breathing which may lead to the condition of sleep apnea, painful urination, extreme mood swings leading to extreme agitation, anxiety, depression, and hostility, testicle tenderness or pain in the testicles, change in the shape or size of the testicles, fast and irregular heartbeat i.e. tachycardia, yellowing of the eyes, sudden fainting or dizziness, profuse sweating, and changes in vision [3].

If any of these serious adverse effects are experienced, the testosterone therapy must be stopped immediately and medial help should be taken right away.

Testosterone causes decline in the blood sugar levels of a person. Hence, if it’s being consumed by diabetic individuals, especially by the patients who’re on insulin therapy, proper measures should be taken to cover the low blood sugar levels in a timely manner. Otherwise, it can lead to life-threatening hypoglycemia. The common symptoms of low blood sugar level include profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, extreme shakiness, and nervousness.

In extremely rare conditions, this medication may also lead to painful and prolonged erection which may last for as long as 4 hours or more. In such a condition, immediately stop using the patch and call for medical help.

It should also be noted that long-term testosterone therapy can lead to a decrease in sperm count which may lower male fertility.

Are There Any Contraindications Associated With This Therapy?

Testosterone therapy is not recommended for use for patients who’re suffering from cancer, prostrate problems like enlarged prostrate or prostrate tumor, liver diseases like hepatomegaly (enlarged liver), cardiovascular diseases like myocardial infarction (heart attack), angina, heart failure, and stroke, pulmonary diseases like asthma and COPD i.e. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, blood clotting, extremely high cholesterol levels, and sleep apnea i.e. difficulty in breathing during sleep. This is because testosterone therapy can worsen these medical conditions which may lead to harmful adverse effects in an individual.

Hence, it can be concluded that transdermal testosterone patches can be used for effective increase in testosterone levels in hypogonadal men who’re not suffering from any of the above-mentioned diseases, after proper consultation with a registered medical practitioner.

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